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Prudential Singapore's Wilf Blackburn on the CEO at Customer Service Desk Number Nine

Proximity to the customer is key for executives who are traditionally cut off from the customer experience.

Video

Prudential Singapore's Wilf Blackburn on the CEO at Customer Service Desk Number Nine
en

As part of a multi-pronged effort to transform the culture at Prudential Singapore, incoming CEO Wilf Blackburn sent a strong message about the importance of customer centricity: Instead of sitting in a top-floor office, he occupied a desk in the ground-floor customer service center.

Related video: Transformation at Prudential Singapore

Read the transcript below.

WILF BLACKBURN: It was important for me as a new leader to make it clear what I stood for by what I was doing. But adding this third leg of customer-centricity was a big, big step for us. And it takes time for the results to become visible. But I needed some action. And so I was quite fortunate because ... in a collaborative way in which we were working—offices were coming down, walls were coming down—I no longer needed an office on the top floor.

And we have a customer servicing center where we have walk-in customers on the ground floor and nine desks. And so I've inhabited desk number nine in the customer service center. Of course, I don't do any customer servicing, but there was a strong message to the organization that the customer is important to this CEO. And that's really resonated, particularly in an organization like ours, it's quite traditional, quite hierarchical, where senior executives in many ways, including physically, often get positioned where they're a long, long way from the real customers.

My first day with my seat being in the customer service center—well, it was a big day for me, but it was a much, much bigger day for our staff who worked there. We have about 20 people who, in shifts, had been working there; some of them had been there for about 20 years. And in fact, the majority of them been there for more than 15 years. And so to have the CEO coming and sitting among them was a big thing.

I remember meeting them for breakfast before they started work on the first day, and they were all quite nervous, of course. And wondering, you know, am I there to keep an eye on them. And it was some time before they realized that actually I'm not there to check up on them. I'm there partly for symbolic purpose, but also really to understand what the customer interactions are like, what happens. And the staff relaxed when they would see our agents, our financial consultants. Often they would bring their customer.

But the agents would recognize me, and say, "Oh Wilf, what are you doing here?" And then they'd introduce me to their customers. And then our staff started to relax, where they could see the real value was in the interest it was creating for customers, and for our financial consultants. And also the interest for me was to find out what's the customer experience really like. So then it was more powerful for many of our other staff to see the CEO didn't need a big office, and the CEO wanted to be where the customers were.

Related video: Transformation at Prudential Singapore

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